Don’t Fret…

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…
Hebrews 10:24

I’m certain my litany of complaints gave my friend a headache. I began with the observation that I think I’m getting old. I find myself full of impatience regarding the state of our world and of the many institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I feel impelled to take action myself as well. But, where do I begin? While my friend shook his head, I wondered…

Has all of my fretting given the Lord God reason to laugh? God knows better than I that we humans have struggled with our use of free will since time began. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we’re capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God hasn’t been laughing at me after all. Rather, perhaps God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of Divine Wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner of this world.

Dear God, as long as we care, we’re capable of great good. Help me and all of us to use our energy and resources to make that goodness a reality.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Loved Always and Forever!

It was decades ago…

Early that morning, I was sitting alone in the teachers’ lounge. I needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts before the school day began. My stepdad had been ill and I felt quite certain that he was in the midst of his last hospital stay. I didn’t realize a colleague had joined me until she said, “Mary, are you okay?” I smiled as I assured her that all was well. I must’ve been convincing because she replied, “Then can I ask you to do me a favor? I bought this book for a baby shower gift and I don’t know if it’s appropriate. Will you read it?” Since I felt badly about misrepresenting my state of mind seconds earlier, of course I agreed to help her. This was the day I became acquainted with Robert Munsch’s book, LOVE YOU FOREVER. When I delivered the book to that teacher’s classroom a few minutes later, I tearfully assured her that her purchase was the best baby shower gift I’d ever seen. It also unexpectedly lifted my spirits. After school that day, I clearly recall announcing to my dear husband that I needed to find that book and to purchase a copy of my own…

Year’s later, shortly after our parish was founded, my husband-the-deacon read that book at all of the Masses on our first Mother’s Day together in 1992. Mike’s gathered our children at the foot of the altar to do the same every year since. Though the book might seem to be a cutesy means to keep the children’s attention for a Mother’s Day homily, its message is meant to do far more for us all. When we listen carefully as Mike reads, we who believe in God’s promises can’t help identifying with the outlandish antics of the child and the eternal patience of the mother in the story. By the end of the book, we who believe in eternal life understand that the experiences of this child and parent illustrate precisely the relationship which God offers to each one of us. Let me explain…

From his infancy, Mother finds her helpless baby irresistible and she promises to love him forever. As is the case with us all, it doesn’t take long for this child to become adept at performing in less-than-lovable ways. Mother thinks the worst that can happen is having her watch flushed down the toilet until her toddler grows into boyhood and then his teens with all of the accompanying trials and tribulations. Still, whatever phase her child grows into, Mother repeats her promise to love him forever. Eventually, the young man leaves home for life in the world. In spite of the distance between them, Mother makes her way to her son to repeat her pledge to love him. As is often the case with those of us blessed with “seasoned” parents, the day arrives when Mother can no longer make her way to her son. She calls and invites him to come to her so she might to speak those words of promise to him one more time. You’ll have to read the book to discover what occurs when mother and child meet…

On this Ascension Day, Jesus finds himself in a similar predicament as his time on this earth with his disciples comes to a close. Though we hear different Ascension gospels each year, the core of Jesus’ message remains the same. In Luke’s account (Luke 24:46-53), Jesus says, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” Luke impresses upon us Jesus’ promise that God will be with us in everything. In today’s account from Mark’s gospel (Mark 16:15-20), Jesus asks his disciples to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” By sharing the Word, they will assure all who listen of God’s love for them. In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus adds his promise, “I will be with you always, until the end of the world.” Jesus promises to remain at their sides through everything. Like the mother in Robert Munsch’s story, Jesus repeats his promise to those he loves over and over again. This is precisely the point of everything Jesus said and did. By the end of the story, you realize that Jesus’ hope is the same as that of the grown child’s mother: That his beloved children accept love and that they learn to love generously in return.

You know, my stepdad passed away not long after I read LOVE YOU FOREVER in the teachers’ lounge that morning. When I bade him my final good-bye, I pictured my stepdad cradled in God’s arms just as that mother had cradled her son and just as that son had eventually cradled his mother. I was convinced that God wouldn’t begin my stepdad’s first day at home in heaven any other way. So it is that I thank you, Robert Munsch, for the poignant glimpse of God’s love which your wonderful book has given me. Thank you, Jesus, for preaching this very lesson every day of your life among us. Thank you, God, for loving each of us through our lifetime journeys home to you. Thank you, Moms (and dad’s!) for doing your best to teach the same!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Munsch, Robert (1986). LOVE YOU FOREVER. Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books.
This book is available in bookstores and online.

Free Will… The Cost and The Perks

And let us consider how we may spur
one another on toward love and good deeds…

Hebrews 10:24

I admit that recent posts reveal my impatience regarding the state of our world and many of the institutions which provide structure to our daily lives. I feel a great sense of urgency which demands that the powers that be do something now to improve life on this planet. At the same time, I encourage myself and all of us to take action. But what are we to do?

As I write, I wonder if I all of my fretting has given God reason to laugh. God knows better than I that this world has struggled with the results of our use -and misuse- of free will since the first of us realized the power of this gift. God also knows better than I that in our brighter moments, when we allow the goodness within us to light our way, we are quite capable of transforming the worst situations into amazing opportunities.

Perhaps God has not been laughing at me after all. Rather, God has smiled in my direction and imparted a bit of wisdom in the process. It occurs to me that, though I may not be able to alleviate all of this world’s woes, I can certainly do something in my little corner to improve things. Will you join me?

Patient God, you transform my worry into hope. As long as we care, we are capable of great good. Help me and all of us to make that great good a reality.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Letting Go…

“So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice.”

From John 16:22

Mother’s Day filled me with memories from both recent history and long ago. After rejoicing in my own role as Mom and Grandma, my thoughts turned to my remarkable mother.

It was more than a dozen years ago and a few weeks after Easter when my son remembered to tell me that my mom had called Easter morning for directions to our house. She wasn’t sure of where to exit the expressway though she had been here a hundred times. I didn’t think much of this until several weeks later when my mom shared that she had driven back home after trying to make it to a meeting. “I couldn’t remember how to get there,” she had said. Because this was also familiar territory for my mom, I began to worry.

When my sisters and I compared notes, we decided it was time to keep closer tabs on our mom. Within a few months, my mom acknowledged that her short-term memory loss had become an issue. So it was that she relinquished her car keys and took up residence with my sister and her husband. Though my mom always intended to live independently and not to be a burden (her word), the truth is that she accepted these changes with great relief. My mom admitted that she did not want to hurt anyone while driving and that she very much looked forward to not having to cook any longer!

Though my mother spent a lifetime caring for me and the rest of her brood, I am most grateful for the grace she exhibited in letting go of a bit of her independence. May I exhibit the same wisdom when the time comes!

Loving God, my mother believed that you would take care of her and she allowed you to do so according to your plan. She believed all would end well and, indeed, it did.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Epiphany Moments

Epiphany… a moment of sudden intuitive understanding.

My decades-old Webster’s Dictionary offers this definition which captures the outcome of a recent disconcerting experience quite precisely. It all began in November with a visit from our mail carrier. Among that day’s delivery was a notice from the U.S. Government regarding Social Security. I was quite taken aback by this because, in my mind, my mom had received the equivalent mailing just a few years ago. How had it happened that I’d suddenly reached my mother’s age? I admit that my unsettled reaction to this reality lasted for weeks. I found that I couldn’t remember a thing and that I ached all over. When I managed to remember to look at my to-do list, it seemed to take me longer than ever to complete each task. In the midst of my efforts, I unhappily pointed out, “Dear God, I’m getting old!” Fully expecting that I’d garnered a bit of the Lord God’s sympathy, I took a deep breath and hoped for the best.

A few days into this melancholy, I absent-mindedly tuned in to an interview on television. I was attending to email upstairs while my husband was in the family room watching. The guest piqued my interest when she shared that she was a newly published author. I abandoned the email and walked downstairs to listen more closely when this woman shared her excitement at having her first book published at age 73. This tidbit elicited a smile from me which remained intact as I ran upstairs to finish that email. Not long after, I was interrupted again by two familiar voices. Though this was at least the twentieth time I’d heard this ad, I ran downstairs again. This time, I watched as Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett sang a familiar Christmas Carol together. “When these two sing together, their age difference means nothing,” I told myself. Though their intent was to entice me to shop at Barnes and Noble, they inadvertently drew another smile from me. With that, I ran up the stairs to finally finish that email.

A week later, my husband, a dear friend and I attended a concert. For two decades, we had listened to Darlene Love sing Baby Please Come Home on David Letterman’s pre-Christmas show. Because Letterman is off the air and we were unlikely to hear her again, when news of this concert came, we immediately purchased tickets. The concert proved to be everything we had hoped for and more. Darlene Love is a consummate professional who made the tickets worth twice the price we paid. Throughout the concert, she related various experiences from her career. She also shared that she is 74 years of age. Suddenly, I realized that the Lord God indeed sympathized with my “age issues” as an uncontrollable smile overwhelmed me and my aching spirit.

On this Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the Magi. These astronomers, who took their calling quite seriously, had observed changes in the night sky. They checked their charts and ancient writings regarding the unusual star which had caught their attention. When they realized the treasure which awaited them if they followed that star, they set out on a treacherous journey. In the end, they found the newborn king in whom heaven and earth had become one. In the end, they carried word of this miracle back to their people who otherwise would never have known the extent of God’s love for them. In the end, the Magi’s effort changed everything in their little corners of this world.

Epiphany… a moment of sudden intuitive understanding. Through these encounters with my own magi of sorts, I experienced an epiphany as well. That 73-year-old author, the Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga duo and Darlene Love opened my eyes to the importance of what each of us has to offer to those around us. Eligibility for social security has nothing to do with my calling. What I do with my unique gifts has everything to do with God’s invitation to use these gifts well. My personal magi have no idea that they transformed my fretting over getting old into a renewed commitment to embrace the opportunities God places in my path. There is still time for me to complete my half-finished books along with the many other adventures God has in store. The same is true for each one of us. In the process, we will all become magi who transform seemingly mundane moments into moments of sudden intuitive understanding of God’s love-driven plans for us all.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Children of Hope

I hear what God proclaims;
the Lord -for he proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9ab

I know that I have shared this before, but recent events cause me to echo my concern. I am bothered and I am wondering if this restlessness is a sign of my age. A sense of urgency overwhelms me and I feel a deep need to fix everything. Because I love my sons, their wives, our granddaughters and the new baby for whom we wait, I find myself gravely troubled by the current state of this world. I convince myself that things cannot possibly get worse only to hear of further turmoil via the media. I think of our family, especially our grandchildren, and I ask myself what this world will be like for them after Grandpa and I are gone.

The family photo resting above my keyboard interrupts my brooding. The sparkle in the eyes of my offspring insists that I give them and their contemporaries a little credit. That sparkle also touches smoldering embers of hope deep within which I have recently ignored. It occurs to me that numerous generations before me have wrung their hands in despair as well, only to be surprised by the goodness brought about by the young people among them. I look back at that family photo. There, I rediscover my hope. There, I find peace.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of our offspring. Within each one of them lies the reason for our hope and the potential for peace on this earth.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved